The Kunhali Marakkar or Kunjali Marakkar was the title given to the Muslim naval chief of the Zamorin (Samoothiri) , Hindu king of Calicut, in present day state of Kerala, India during the 16th century. There were four major Kunhalis who played a part in the Zamorin's naval wars with the Portuguese from 1502 to 1600. Of the four Marakkars, Kunjali Marakkar II is the most famous. The Marakkars are credited with organizing the first naval defence of the Indian coast, to be later succeeded in the 18th century by the Maratha Sarkhel Kanhoji Angre.
The four key Kunhali Marakkars:
- Kutti Ahmed Ali – Kunhali Marakkar I
- Kutti Pokker Ali – Kunhali Marakkar II
- Pattu Kunhali – Kunhali Marakkar III
- Mohammed Ali – Kunhali Marakkar IV
Origins of Marakkar
According to tradition, Marakkars were originally Muslim marine merchants of port Kochi who left for Ponnani in the Zamorin's dominion when the Portuguese fleets came to Kingdom of Cochin. They offered their men, ships and wealth against the Portuguese to the Zamorin of Calicut-the king took them into his service and eventually they became the Admirals of his fleet.
Against the Portuguese Empire
The Portuguese initially attempted to obtain trading privileges in 1498, but soon had troubles because the pressure from the Muslim Arabs over the Zamorin, since they had traditionally been trading in his ports, and did not want to lose the monopoly in trading spices. The Zamorin resisted these attempts which resulted in the Portuguese trying to destabilise his rule by negotiating a treaty with his arch enemy, the Kingdom of Cochin in 1503. Sensing the Portuguese superiority at sea, the Zamorin set about improving his navy. He appointed Kunjali Marakkar to the task.
The fight between the Zamorin and the Portuguese continued on until the end of the 16th century, when the Portuguese convinced the Zamorin in 1598 that Marakkar IV intended to take over his Kingdom. The Zamorin then joined hands with the Portuguese to defeat Marakkar IV, ending in his defeat and death in 1600.
The Kunjali IV had rescued a Chinese boy, called Chinali, who had been enslaved on a Portuguese ship. The Kunjali was very fond of him, and he became one of his most feared lieutenants, a fanatical Muslim and enemy of the Portuguese, terrorizing them crushing them in battle. The Portuguese were terrorized by the Kunjali and his Chinese right hand man, eventually, after the Portuguese allied with Calicut's Samorin, under Andre Furtado de Mendoça they attacked the Kunjali and Chinali's forces, and they were handed over to the Portuguese by the Samorin after he reneged on a promise to let them go. Diogo do Couto, a Portuguese historian, questioned the Kunjali and Chinali when they were captured. He was present when the Kunjali surrendered to the Portuguese, and was described: "One of these was Chinale, a Chinese, who had been a servant at Malacca, and said to have been the captive of a Portuguese, taken as a boy from a fusta, and afterwards brought to Kunhali, who conceived such an affection for him that he trusted him with everything. He was the greatest exponent of the Moorish superstition and enemy of the Christians in all Malabar, and for those taken captive at sea and brought thither he invented the most exquisite kinds of torture when he martyred them." However, de Couto's claim that he torured Christians was questioned, since no othe source reported this, and is dismissed as ridiculous.
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- 1500 December – Zamorin expels Portuguese from Kozhikode.
- December 24, 1500 – Portuguese (led by Pedro Álvares Cabral) take refuge at port of Kochi, where the King offers them spices.
- 1501 January – Portuguese conclude a treaty with Tirumulpad, the King of Kochi, allowing them to open a feitoria there.
- 1503 – Portuguese crown the new King of Kochi, effectively making him a vassal of the King of Portugal.
- 1503 March – Samoothiri attacks foe Hindu Kingdom of Kochi, also known as Perumpadapu Swaroopam.
- 1503 – Portuguese Afonso de Albuquerque arrives in Kochi to find it destroyed, and after helping in the defense of the king, manages to obtain permission to build a fort. Thus the first European fort is built in India by 1505 called Fort Manuel or Manuel Kotta.
- 1505 November – murder of the Portuguese factor António de Sá, the other Portuguese men and the destruction of the church of St. Thomas in Kollam.
- 1506 – Samoothiri Raja approached Raja of Kolathiri. The Portuguese had behaved contemptuously to the Muslims at Kannur, and so Raja of Kolathiri also intended to teach them a lesson. The Raja laid siege the St. Angelos fort at Kannur. But the Portuguese won this battle, and the Raja of Kolathiri was forced to plea for peace.
- 1506 – Raja's naval forces join the Turkish and Arab navies to defeat the Portuguese navy led by D. Lourenço de Almeida, son of the Portuguese Viceroy. However, Portuguese repel the attack.
- November 14, 1507 – Portuguese under Almeida attacked Ponnani.
- 1508 March – Sultan of Cairo's navy defeats Portuguese at Battle of Chaul, killing D. Lourenço de Almeida
- 1509 February – Portuguese counterattack and defeat the Samoothiri's forces and the Mamluk Egyptian/Turkish Navy at the Battle of Diu. Turks and Egyptians withdraw from India, leaving the seas to the Portuguese.
- 1513 – Raja and Portuguese sign a treaty giving Portuguese right to build a fort at Kozhikode, in return for their assistance in the Raja's fight with the Kingdoms of Kochi and Kolathiri.
- 1520? – Assassination attempt on Raja
- 1524 – King of Portugal re-sends Vasco Da Gama back to India to control the Raja.
- February 26, 1525 – Portuguese navy led by new Viceroy Menezes raids Ponnani, but the Raja defeats them with assistance from Tinayancheri, and Kurumliyapatri.
- 1530 – Formation of Chalium (also known as Challe, now Chaliyam) fort by Portuguese – the Raja of Tanur (Vettattnad) enabled the Portuguese to erect a fort at Chalium at the mouth of the Beypore river. Chalium was a strategic site, for it was only 10 km south of Kozhikkode. Raja of Chaliyam or Parappanad also helped the Portuguese.
- 1540 – Samoothiri Raja entered into an agreement with the Portuguese and stopped the war. Treaty allows the Portuguese a trade monopoly at Kozhikode port.
- 1550 – Portuguese attacked, pillaged and plundered Ponnani. They set fire to several houses and four mosques, including the Valia Palli.
- 1569–1570 – War between the Portuguese and Samoothiri's forces at Chaliyam fort. The battle of Talikota in 1565 in which Vijayanagar, the ally of the Portuguese, was defeated, emboldened the Samoothiri to start large scale operations against the Portuguese.
- 1571 September 15 – Portuguese lose the war and surrender Chaliyam fort. Samoothiri Raja destroys the fort.
- 1573 – Pattu Marakkar (Kunjali III) obtained permission from Samoothiri to build a fortress and dockyard at Puthupattanam. This fort later came to be called the Marakkar Kotta (Marakkar Fort).
- 1584 – Samoothiri Raja needed free navigation without the passes of the Portuguese, to the ports of Gujarat, Persia and Arabia, to continue his trade. So an agreement with the Portuguese is made. The sanction to the Portuguese to build a factory at Ponnani is given. By now the Raja has clearly shifted his policy towards the Portuguese.
- 1586 – Marakkars defeat the Portuguese in a naval battle.
- 1588 – The Portuguese settle again in Kozhikode with the Samoothiri's permission.
- 1589 – Marakkars inflict a crushing defeat on the Portuguese.
- 1591 – Samoothiri Raja allows the Portuguese to build a factory at Kozhikkode. He lays the foundation stone of their church and grants them the necessary land and building materials. His commanders like Kunjali III who were sworn enemies of the Portuguese were ignored again. Kunjali III begins to distance himself from Samoothiri.
- 1595 – Kunjali IV becomes the Chief of the Marakkars. Marakkar, who had been given the powers and privileges of any Nair noble in the Samoothiri's service, strengthens the fortress at Kottakal and openly challenges his master by styling himself as the "Lord of the Indian seas". He cuts off the tail of one of Samoothiri's elephants and ill treats a Nair noble and his wife, who had been sent to get his explanation for the deed.
- 1598 – The rebellion by his vassal exasperates the Samoothiri, who joins up with the Portuguese and fights Kunjali Marakkar IV. The first joint operation goes very bad for the allies, owing to a lack of communication between the Portuguese and the Samoothiri. They suffer heavy losses.
- 1600 – In the second battle, the Samoothiri attacks Marakkar Kotta from the land with an army of 6000 and the Portuguese navy under André Furtado bombards it from the sea. Left with no choice, Kunjali Marakkar surrenders to Samoothiri on a solemn promise of pardon, but the Samoothiri breaks his word and hands his former Admiral over to the Portuguese, who executes him and his men, after taking them to Goa.
- Cochin University of Science and Technology in Cochin, Kerala, India, has got its new Marine Engineering department named after Kunjali II as 'Kunjali Marakkar School Of Marine Engineering'.
- The Indian Navy shore-based naval air training centre at Colaba, Mumbai is named Naval Maritime Academy INS Kunjali II in honour of the second Marakkar.
- The Indian Department of Post issued a Rupee 3 colour stamp commemorating the maritime heritage of Kunjali Marakkar on 17 December 2000 on the 400th anniversary of the end of the Marakkars. The stamp design shows the war-paroe, a small craft used by the Kunjalis, which, manned by just 30–40 men each, could be rowed through lagoons and narrow waters. Several of these crafts were deployed at strategic points and they would emerge from small creeks and inconspicuous estuaries, attack the Portuguese ships at will, inflict heavy damage and casualties by setting fire to their sails and get back into the safety of shallow waters. In these guerilla raids, the Marakkars had shown remarkable prowess.
- At Iringlal, a village about 35 km north of Kozhikode, a small museum has been built in a hut that used to belong to the Marakkar family, with collection of ancient swords, cannonballs and knives. This is maintained by the State Archeology Dept .
- The Kunjali Marakkar Centre for West Asian Studies at Calicut University is named in honour of Kunjali Marakkar.
- In 1967 a Malayalam movie named Kunjali Marakkar was released in which depicted Kunjali Marakkar's heroic life.
In popular culture
In 1968, S. S. Rajan made a film based on the lives of Kunhali Marakkar. The film, titled Kunjali Marakkar itself, starred Kottarakkara Sreedharan Nair in the title role. That year the film won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Malayalam. A later plan by Jayaraj to remake the movie with Mammootty in the title role was dropped. In 2011, national award winning director Salim Ahamed announced a film in which Vikram is expected to play the role of Kunhali Marakkar.
- India's naval traditions: the role of Kunhali Marakkars – K. K. N. Kurup, Northern Book Centre, 1997
- Gundert, Herman Keralappalama (History of Malabar from A.D. 1498 – 1531) in Malayalam, first published 1868, Kottayam:Vidyarthi Mithram, 1964
- Mathew, K.S. Portuguese Trade with India in the sixteenth century
- Queyroz Fr. The Temporal and Spiritual Conquest of Ceylaö,
- Tufhathul Mujahideen by Shaykh Zainuddin Makhtum.
- Charles Ralph Boxer (1948). Fidalgos in the Far East, 1550-1770: fact and fancy in the history of Macao. M. Nijhoff. p. 225. Retrieved March 2, 2012. "we meet with a surprisingly frequent number of references to Chinese wayfarers or sojourners in India Portuguesa. One Chinese slave who was taken by Malabar pirates in his youth, subsequently became a terrible scourge to his late masters, as the right hand man of the famous Moplah pirate Kunhali. His eventual conqueror in 1600, the great Captain"
- Sun Yat-Sen institute for the advancement of culture and education (1939). T'ien Hsia monthly, Volume 9. p. 456. Retrieved March 2, 2012. "and said to have been slave to a Portuguese, before he was captured in his youth and brought before Kunhala, who took such a fancy to him that he entrusted him with everything. He was he most fanatical Moslem and enemy of the Christian faith along the whole Malabar coast. For when prisoners were taken at sea and brought to him, he invented the most fiendish tortures ever seen, with which he martyred them.""
- Sun Yat-Sen institute for the advancement of culture and education (1939). T'ien Hsia monthly, Volume 9. p. 456. Retrieved March 2, 2012. "Kunhali and Chinale were for years the greatest scourge of the Portuguese in the India seas. They made such effective depredations against Lusitanian shipping that the former assumed the high"
- Sun Yat-Sen institute for the advancement of culture and education (1939). T'ien Hsia monthly, Volume 9. p. 456. Retrieved March 2, 2012. "command of Andre Furtado de Mendoça, and in alliance with the Samorin of Calicut, was more successful. Kottakkal was taken by storm and both Kunhali and his Chinese lieutenant carried off as prisoners to Goa. They remained for some time in the Goa prison, where they were interviewed by the historian Diogo do Couto."
- François Pyrard, Pierre de Bergeron, Jérôme Bignon (1890). The voyage of François Pyrard of Laval to the East Indies, the Maldives, the Moluccas and Brazil, Issue 80, Volume 2, Part 2. VOL. II, PART II. LONDON : WHITING AND CO., SARDINIA STREET. LINCOLN'S INN FIELDS: Printed for the Hakluyt society. p. 523. Retrieved March 2, 2012. "allied forces the remnants of the garrison marched forth. "First came 400 Moors, many of them wounded, with their children and wives, in such an impoverished condition that they seemed as dead. These the Samorin bade go where they pleased. Last of all came Kunhali with a black kerchief on his head, and a sword in his hand with the point lowered. He was at that time a man of fifty, of middle height, muscular and broad-shouldered. He walked between three of his chief Moors. One of these was Chinale, a Chinese, who had been a servant at Malacca, and said to have been the captive of a Portuguese, taken as a boy from a fusta, and afterwards brought to Kunhali, who conceived such an affection for him that he trusted him with everything. He was the greatest exponent of the Moorish superstition and enemy of the Christians in all Malabar, and for those taken captive at sea and brought thither he invented the most exquisite kinds of torture when he martyred them. "Kunhali walked straight to the Samorin and delivered to him his sword in token of submission, throwing himself at his feet with much humility. Some say that the Samorin, inasmuch as he had promised him life, had secretly advised the Chief Captain, when Kunhali should deliver himself up, to lay hands upon him, as though he were taking him by force; and so the Chief Captain did. For, as the Samoriu was standing by him, Andre Furtado advanced, and, seizing him by the arm, pulled him aside; while the other gave a great lurch so as to get free. As he was then at the brink of a hole, the Chief Captain was in risk of falling therein, had not his arm been seized by Padre Fr. Diogo Horaen, a Religious of the Order of the Glorious Father S. Francisco, who stood on one side; Diogo Moniz Barreto, who was on the other, fell into the hole and skinned all his leg." A tumult now arose among the Nairs, which the Samorin with difficulty suppressed. In the midst of it, Chinale and Cotiale, the pirate-chief's nephew, and the other captains, attempted to escape, but were seized and manacled by the Portuguese soldiery. Kunhali himself was led off under a strong guard to the Portuguese lines. Furtado, after entering the fort hand-iu-hand with the Samorin, prudently gave up the place to be sacked by the"
- T. Madhava Menon, International School of Dravidian Linguistics (2000). A handbook of Kerala, Volume 1. International School of Dravidian Linguistics. p. 161. ISBN 81-85692-27-0. Retrieved March 2, 2012. "Kunjali was led to the scaffold. He was fifty years of age, fair, thick set and broadbreasted. He was 'of a low stature, well-shaped and strong'. With him was Chinali, a Chinese youth whom Kunjali had rescued from a Portuguese ship."
- Odayamadath Kunjappa Nambiar (1963). The Kunjalis, admirals of Calicut (2 ed.). Asia Pub. House. p. 133. Retrieved March 2, 2012. "Last of all came Kunjali with a black kerchief on his head, and a sword in his hand with the point lowered. He was at that time a man of fifty, of middle height, muscular and broad-shouldered. He walked between three of his chief Moors. One of these was Chinali a Chinese who had been servant at Malacca, and said to have been the captive of a Portuguese, taken as a boy from a fusta and afterwards brought to Kunjali, who conceived such an affection for him that he"
- Indian Pirates. Concept Publishing Company. p. 138. Retrieved March 2, 2012. "He walked between three of his chief Muslims: one of them was Chinali "A Chinese who had been a servant at Malacca and said to have been a captive of the Portuguese taken as a boy from a fusta and afterwards brought to Kunhali." He had conceived such an affection for him that "he treated him with everything." He was "the greatest exponent of the Moorish superstition and an enemy of the Christians in all Malabar." It is said of him that for those captured at sea and brought to Kunhali's little kingdom, he "invented the most exquisite kinds of torture when he martyred them." This wild assertion of de Couto, lacking corroboration, is apparently incredible."
- François Pyrard, Pierre de Bergeron, Jérôme Bignon (1890). The voyage of François Pyrard of Laval to the East Indies, the Maldives, the Moluccas and Brazil, Issue 80, Volume 2, Part 2. VOL. II, PART II. LONDON : WHITING AND CO., SARDINIA STREET. LINCOLN'S INN FIELDS: Printed for the Hakluyt society. p. 516. Retrieved March 2, 2012. "withdrew to his camp. All this time the obstructions in the river, and the deficiency of boats, had kept Luiz da Gama a mere spectator of the scene, unable either to direct or to succour. We have, from de Couto, a picture of him standing knee-deep in the mud of the river bar, endeavouring to embark succours in the boats, while ever and anon his attempts thus to rally his forces were frustrated by the sight of the fugitives, some in boats, some swimming down the river, and all shouting, "Treason! Treason!" The body of the brave Luiz da Sylva had been got into a boat, wrapped in his flag, which a captain had torn from its standard, in order to conceal the fact of his fall. This manoeuvre, however, only added to the disorder of the soldiery, who found themselves of a sudden, and at the critical moment of the attack, without a competent leader and without colours. Thus ended the gravest disaster which had as yet befallen the Portuguese arms in India. De Couto gives a long list of noble fidalgos who fell that day, sacrificed by the incapacity of their leaders; and though he confidently asserts that the total loss was 230 men and no more, his own story of the events of the fight gives colour to the statement of Pyrard that the loss amounted to no less than 500 lives. It is further stated by de Couto, who talked the matter over with Kunhali and his lieutenant, Chinale, when they were in the Goa prison, that the loss of the besieged exceeded 500 men. The sorrow and vexation of Luiz da Gama at the death of his brave captain and the miscarriage of the whole enterprise were unbounded. His next measures, however, were dictated by good sense and humanity. Leaving a small force to blockade the fort under Francisco de Sousa, and despatching the body of da Sylva to Cannanor, where it was temporarily interred with all available pomp,1 he withdrew his shattered forces to Cochin, where the wounded received attention at the hospital and in the houses of the citizens. The blockading force was insufficient, and Kunhali, who had thirteen galeots ready for action in his port, might easily have forced a way to sea, had not de Sousa, by a skilful ruse, led him 1 It was afterwards conveyed to Portugal."
- Vijayakumar, B. (August 14, 2011). "Kunjali Marakkar - 1967". The Hindu (Chennai, India).
- "Salim Ahmed comes again with film on Kunjalimarakkar". Mathrubhumi. 31 October 2011. Retrieved 9 November 2011.